Russian president criticizes media bill
( AP ) - Russia's new president urged parliament Monday to scrap a bill widely seen as restrictive to the media.
In a letter to the lower house of Parliament, the text of which was released by the Kremlin, President Dmitry Medvedev criticized the proposed legislation and warned that it could hurt media freedom.
"The bill's provisions could only create obstacles to the normal functioning of mass media," Medvedev said in the letter. He advised the State Duma to dump the bill, which allows authorities to suspend and close down media outlets for libel and slander.
It was not immediately clear whether Medvedev's move signaled his intention to take a more liberal course compared to his predecessor and mentor, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whose eight-year tenure saw a steady rollback of post-Soviet media and political freedoms.
But the move followed up on campaign promises to give more freedom to businesses, civil society and media. Some observers voiced hope that he could soften some of the most repressive policies of his predecessor.
During Putin's tenure, major national television networks came under the control of the Kremlin or its allies, and Russia's print media also experienced growing official pressure.
But critics said that Medvedev, who took office May 7, would likely follow Putin's guidance, who has retained clout as prime minister.